Commencement 2016

"Leading with Passion and Courage"

Friday, May 20, 2016

Commencement day is the highlight of the academic year. As is our tradition, Wheelock will hold two separate Commencement programs:

  • 10:00 am Undergraduate Ceremony
  • 3:00 pm Graduate Ceremony

2016 Honorees

We are delighted this year to honor three Massachusetts leaders who have dedicated their lives to the service of others and who truly embody our 2016 Commencement theme "Leading with Passion and Courage." Receiving honorary degrees are: Reverend Liz Walker, a minister, award-winning journalist, and activist for community healing and cross-cultural dialogue; Dr. Lisa Wong, a musician, pediatrician, and lifelong arts advocate; and Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread and one of the first and strongest voices to recognize hunger as a public health problem in low-income communities.

Reverend Liz WalkerREVEREND LIZ WALKER
Honoree and Undergraduate Commencement Speaker

Reverend Liz Walker is a minister, award-winning journalist, activist, and one of Boston's most respected and beloved public figures. Perhaps best known for her 31-year television career, she was Boston's first African American Television News Anchor on WBZ and earned two Emmys and an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in her field.

She is currently Pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, a dynamic faith community with a 130-plus-year history of making a difference in one of Boston's most challenging neighborhoods. Under her leadership, the church is home to the Cory Johnson Trauma Education Project, an innovative program that addresses the epidemic of post-traumatic stress in a low-income African-American community too often overrun by violence.

Reverend Walker's calling to the ministry came after a life-changing experience in the summer of 2001, when she traveled to Sudan as a reporter on a fact-finding mission about the slave trade. Outraged by what she witnessed, she co-founded "My Sister's Keeper," an organization focused on economic and educational initiatives for Sudanese women and girls. She also helped found the Sisterhood for Peace initiative, which supports the growth of a network of diverse Sudanese women committed to collaborating across race, religion, ethnicity, and geography to promote peace and justice.

A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Reverend Walker has long been actively involved in many community service organizations and projects. She helped found the Jane Doe Safety Fund, a multi-million-dollar, statewide anti-violence initiative that works on policy and supports domestic abuse shelters and safe houses around the Commonwealth.

She is a member of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and serves on a variety of nonprofit and educational boards.

Dr. Lisa WongDR. LISA WONG
Honoree and Graduate Commencement Speaker

Lisa M. Wong, MD, is a pediatrician, musician, arts advocate, and author dedicated to the healing arts of music and medicine. She has been a pediatrician at Milton Pediatric Associates for nearly 30 years and is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

As Past President of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra-a Boston-based ensemble of healthcare providers that combines music, medicine, and service-she established the "Healing Art of Music Program," which helps raise awareness and funds for medical nonprofits in the community. Dr. Wong's 2012 book, Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Health Arts of Music and Medicine, co-written with Robert Viagas, chronicles the unique mission and development of the organization. She is also a co-founder of the Arts and Humanities Initiative at Harvard Medical School and Boston Arts Consortium for Health.

A lifelong arts education advocate, Dr. Wong began playing the piano at age 4, violin at age 8, guitar at age 10 and viola at age 40. She serves on the boards of the Boston Public Schools Arts Initiative and the Conservatory Lab Charter School and is on the Leadership Council of Boston Creates. She was previously on the boards of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Young Audiences of Massachusetts, and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and works closely with the El Sistema-inspired programs for music as social change in Massachusetts.

Dr. Wong received the 2010 Pinnacle Award from the Mattapan Community Health Center and the 2013 Champion for the Arts Award from the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston.

She earned her AB magna cum laude in East Asian Studies from Harvard University, and MD from New York University School of Medicine. She was a visiting scholar at Harvard Graduate School of Education and has given talks on music and medicine throughout North America and Europe.

Ms. Ellen ParkerMS. ELLEN PARKER
Honoree

Ellen Parker celebrates 20 years as the dynamic and passionate Executive Director of Project Bread-the Walk for Hunger. She has led the evolution of her organization from a traditional anti-hunger organization to a leading national model that responds to the individual crisis of food insecurity while investing in systemic changes to prevent hunger.

Ms. Parker was among the first, and strongest, voices to recognize hunger as a public health problem in low-income communities-and to call for leaders in behavioral economics and public health to initiate review and evaluation of the efficacy of food distribution as a dominant answer to this problem of economics and health.

For more than a decade, Ms. Parker has advocated for healthy school food and community-based programming that reflects local need. In accomplishing this, she's brought vibrant new partnerships to the table: engaging community residents and leaders, research institutions, legislators, hospital networks, corporate partners, the media, and school districts in her work.

Before assuming the leadership of Project Bread, Ms. Parker was Vice President for Programs at Crittenton Hastings House, Boston; Director of Catholic Charities for Greater Boston; and the senior policy advisor for human services to the Mayor of Boston. She began her career as an advocate for children and families at Greater Boston Legal Services.

Ms. Parker has received numerous awards, including the Beverly Ross Fleigel Social Policy Award from the National Association of Social Workers; the Massachusetts Public Health Association's Community Leadership Award; and the Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Award for Exemplary Public Service.

She holds master's degrees in Social Work and Business Administration and Public Management from Boston University, and has lectured at Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dartmouth College.

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